Brain Wiring Continues to Develop Well Into Our 20s

The human brain doesn’t stop developing at adolescence, but continues well into our 20s, demonstrates recent research from the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta.

It has been a long-held belief in medical communities that the human brain stopped developing in adolescence. But now there is evidence that this is in fact not the case, thanks to medical research conducted in the Department of Biomedical Engineering by researcher Christian Beaulieu, an Alberta Innovates — Health Solutions scientist, and by his PhD student at the time, Catherine Lebel. Lebel recently moved to the United States to work at UCLA, where she is a post-doctoral fellow working with an expert in brain-imaging research.

"This is the first long-range study, using a type of imaging that looks at brain wiring, to show that in the white matter there are still structural changes happening during young adulthood," says Lebel. "The white matter is the wiring of the brain; it connects different regions to facilitate cognitive abilities. So the connections are strengthening as we age in young adulthood."

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Sample tracts at two time points. Tracts are shown at two time points for several individuals. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Alberta)

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